Whether you have spent one night or six months on the Appalachian Trail, every hiker eventually experiences one of the more than 275 iconic shelters, lean-tos, and huts along the path. More than just a dry roof over weary travelers, the shelters along the iconic A.T. provide a gathering place and a sense of community on America’s most famous footpath. Dotted an average of every eight miles along the 2,193-mile route, these backcountry shelters have welcomed hikers on a first-come, first-served basis since the trail’s earliest years. The Appalachian Trail: Backcountry Shelters, Lean-tos, and Huts chronicles them all, including several lost to the shelter graveyard.
Photographer and writer Sarah Jones Decker thru-hiked the AT in 2008 and rehiked it in 2018 and 2019 for this massive documentary project. Working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy—and in collaboration with the trail community of hikers, historians, photographers, writers, and clubs—to produce this first-of-its-kind resource, Jones Decker organizes and assembles every single shelter for the first time. The book is packed with trail and shelter photos, history and information, and detailed maps. Some shelters have sleeping lofts, multiple stories, wooden bunks, or platforms; some have large front porches; and a rare few even have solar showers.
Most shelters have a picnic table and a privy and are typically near a reliable water source. Shelter journals at each offer a sense of community and communication while on the trail. Most sleep six to eight, the largest upwards of 90, and some even allow for the possibility of a pizza delivery. As the trail continues to grow, change, and evolve, so does the need for the shelter’s conservation and stewardship.
About the Author: Sarah Jones Decker ("Harvest," GA-ME '08) is a Virginia native who started section-hiking the AT in her teens. Living close to two A.T. trail towns (Hot Springs, North Carolina, and Erwin, Tennessee), she continues to be connected to the trail and its community. Her work can be found at sarahjonesdecker.com and rootbottomfarm.com.